President Duterte shuts down logging firms
“The President also ordered several logging concessions in Zamboanga peninsula to be suspended,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a regular press briefing yesterday.

President Duterte shuts down logging firms

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - January 10, 2018 - 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines — After a Cabinet meeting where he was reportedly shown images of massive forest denudation in Zamboanga, an enraged President Duterte ordered a halt to logging operations in the province where recent typhoons Urduja and Vinta took a heavy toll on lives and property.

“The President also ordered several logging concessions in Zamboanga peninsula to be suspended,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a regular press briefing yesterday.

Duterte came out with the order to suspend the logging contracts of at least two firms after being briefed on the devastation caused by flooding in Zamboanga and Davao at the first Cabinet meeting for this year last Monday at Malacañang.

He reportedly blew his top on seeing a five-minute video presentation of environmental degradation caused by logging.

Authorities blamed heavy flooding during the onslaught of Urduja and Vinta on the denudation of forests, especially in Zamboanga peninsula.

At the Cabinet meeting, Roque said the President was apprised of the situation of indigenous people displaced by logging operations of some companies.

“And he also observed that it is widespread logging that is responsible for the flash floods that Mindanao experienced only this month of December with two typhoons,” Roque said.

In his social media post last Monday, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol identified one of the firms as the Sodaco Agricultural Corp., which reportedly got a 60,000-hectare concession from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 2006. 

“Agriculture and fisheries were adversely affected by the flooding and landslides. Even if you have the ISF (integrated social forestry) license, it does not give you the right to cut down trees for commercial purposes. They made the ISF as an excuse to conduct logging operations,” Piñol told reporters yesterday.

DENR region director Felix Mirasol Jr.  confirmed yesterday the suspension order on Sodaco and sister firm Sirawai Plywood & Lumber Corp. (SPLC) in Sibuco for breach in their Industrial Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) with the government.    

Sodaco and SPLC are under the Dacon Group of Companies (DGC), with DMCI as mother company.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said that DENR investigators have been deployed in the province so that “an exhaustive probe can be conducted to see if there have been violations in their permits.”

President Duterte blamed the companies for the flash floods and mudslides that killed dozens of people in Zamboanga del Norte at the height of Typhoon Vinta.

The environment chief said a 12-member team consisting of local DENR officers from the forestry, mines and environment bureaus has been created to look into possible irregularities in the operations of Sodaco and SPLC.

Under their IFMA terms, SPLC and Sodaco are allowed to establish industrial tree plantations, which they can harvest. The agreement bars them from cutting residual trees unless authorized by the Office of the DENR Secretary under very strict conditions such as for site development and plantation establishment.

The DENR has issued five IFMAs to the two firms with a combined area of 70,709 hectares, covering 12 towns traversing the boundaries of Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur. – Rhodina Villanueva, Louise Maureen Simeon

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